Cel-shading plays a significant part in transforming the look of modern-day Transformers in a welcoming, nostalgia-heavy throwback to the 80s that is Transformers: Devastation. Expect to be treated to the authentic voice actors and 80s soundtracks throughout the game as well, making the whole thing much more appealing to long-term Transformers fans than many of the new-fangled, half-arsed apps you may see lingering in the app store today. Its gameplay is also rather intriguing, much like a classic beat-em-up battle-based adventure, only with Autobots and Deceptions on each side wreaking the devastation mentioned in the title. This review wrestles with the main talking points of this delicately designed game.
In reference to the mechanics of the game, there are some similarities with previous transformers titles. You’re able to transform your chosen Autobot (of which there are many from Generation I of the Transformers series) into a vehicle and back to automaton form at will. However, unlike the games that have come before it, Transformers: Devastation leans much more towards the beat-em-up side of things than it does to the longer-range battle/shooting aspects of such action.
The mechanics make very good use of each robot’s ability to transform between robotic and vehicular form. This is best demonstrated in the ability to finish off your beat-em-up combos with a swift transformation into your vehicle form in order to dish out a Mortal Kombat-esque finishing move to your opponent. Likewise, you can being an attack with your vehicular or semi-vehicular form in order to smash through your enemies’ shields, then quickly transform into you robotic form in order to deliver a punishing combination to a significantly weakened opponent.
You can also forgive developer Platinum Games for ripping off, well, themselves, by including the momentary slow-mo sequences to be utilised during attacks. They have taken Bayonetta’s (the second title of which is arguably the best) Witch Time mechanic and nestled it into the beat-em-up gameplay of Devastation. This results in the ability to dodge and anticipate enemy attacks while they slow down for moments at a (witch) time, letting you in turn utilise your many melee attack options: swords, hammers, and gauntlets are all part and parcel of the action as you would expect from a Transformers game.
It isn’t all fun and games when it comes to Devastation however; there are some flaws that make it a game that’s arguably less appealing to casual fans. A look at the boss battles immediately throws up red flags. Fighting against multiple Decepticons sounds like it could be challenging and fun, but the difficulty is just too damn high, usually as a result of the health of these bosses being ridiculously high and hard to deplete.
A break in momentum is also created when Platinum games do their usual thing of making you replay many of the stages to complete new objectives. They even make you play seemingly unrelated stages that don’t fit in with the meat of the gameplay/storyline at all.
These few flaws would be much more difficult to forgive if it wasn’t for the game’s massively appealing graphics. We’re talking cel-shading and the use of colour that will instantly transport old-time/80s Transformers fans back to the golden era of Generation I. The music is also quintessentially throwback in nature, and you’re even treated to voice-overs of many of the original voice-over artists from the original series.
So what we have in Transformers: Devastation isn’t a sublime action/battle game to indiscriminately impress fans and non-fans alike. No, the game is wrought with too many flaws – level length, questionable mission segues, and disproportionately difficult boss battles to name a few – to impress everyone. That’s not to say that it won’t thoroughly impress fans who are already in love with the series however. In fact, it feels like Platinum Games has tried to make this game appeal to long-standing fans of the series, what with the great-looking cel-shaded design, original voice actors, and general abundance of Generation I creeping around every corner of the game.
Should you buy Devastation? If you like free-roaming beat-em-up games with robots and wistful reminiscence of the past Transformers style, then yes you should. However, if you’re already sceptical about your passion for the Transformers series, it’s worth giving it a second thought since the aforementioned flaws may be too much for you to swallow.